Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Category: Business Development (page 3 of 99)

5 Tips to keep your business on track

Here are some quick tips, to inspire you to make better decisions.

  1. If you have an idea, don’t poll your friends. Great ideas are not anointed — they fly or die based on merit and hard work.
  2. When they told you: “Don’t work hard, work smart!”, they lied. It’s not about working smart instead of working hard. Success requires both.
  3. Steve Martin was right. The best way to get noticed, is to be so good that they can’t ignore you.
  4. Avoid offering free consultations. Firstly, they massively undervalue your work. Secondly, they attract time-wasters like light attracts moths.
  5. The money is not in the list.

I hope you found this useful.

Does email marketing work?

Yes, email marketing does work… so long as you do it correctly.

Allow me to explain

Last month, my friend Irene sent an email marketing message to the community of newsletter readers, which we have nurtured for her lighting business. I’ve been helping with her marketing and was delighted, when a very impressive 18% of her readers made a purchase.

I was even happier for Irene, when within 9 days, she’d generated just over $32,000 in sales, with an average profit margin of 55%. The business is just 11 months old.

When email marketing doesn’t work

Most small business owners handle their own email marketing. They buy lists or build lists, when they should be building a community. They then send a marketing message to their list, which they write themselves. Their home made marketing message fails to inspire their readers to take action. It fails to compel their readers to make a purchase.

Of course, it fails the business owner too. An average list coupled with DIY content, produces predictably bad results.

In a nutshell: Email marketing is like every form of marketing, in one important respect. An amateur approach will always lead to amateur results. New clients or new sales are the lifeblood of your business. It’s too important for an amateur approach.

How to make the right business decisions

I’d like to share some ideas with you today, about your role in your business.

You often hear small business owners talking about how many hats they wear. They’re referring to the number of different roles they play within their business. Whilst every business owner wears a number of different hats, it’s important to know the difference between what we should do and what needs an expert.

Specialist and non specialist areas of business

It’s fine for us to run the business, deal with clients and customers and control the areas of our business, where we are an expert. It’s fine for us to make the major decisions and deal with suppliers etc. However, when it comes to specialist areas of the business, we need expert help if we want to achieve the right results.

Common examples of how to lose a fortune, by wearing the wrong hat.

  • Yes, you probably could do your own accounts, but a qualified accountant will be able to lower your tax and spot problems, before they happen.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own HR, but if you end up in a dispute with an employee, you could end up losing thousands or being sued out of business.
  • Yes, you probably could handle your own marketing, but you will soon reach a plateau, find it hard to grow, then hard to survive. A marketing professional will show you exactly what you need to do, to take your business to the next level and beyond.
  • Yes, you probably could design your own website, but a professional web designer will make it look polished and professional… rather than the work of a keen amateur.

It’s hard for a business owner to fail, when they work hard, doing the right things correctly, based on expert advice.

Conversely, it’s almost impossible to succeed, no matter how hard we work, no matter how passionate we are, if we’re wearing too many hats.

In short: You need to give your business the resources it needs, if you want it to succeed. To expect it to succeed on a mixture of general advice and DIY tactics, is a very costly and usually fatal mistake.

Why people criticise you and how to deal with it in just 3 steps

negative criticism, critics

Here is a simple, powerful 3 step process, to help you totally overcome the impact or fear of negative criticism.

Broadly, all of your critics can be divided into 1 of the following 2 groups:

  1. Those who want to help you and encourage you.
  2. Those who want to hinder you and see you fail.

It’s the second type of critic, which I want to talk to you about today. It’s that type of negative criticism, which stops many of us from being willing to stand out. It stops us putting our work or art out there. It encourages us to keep our head down. To follow the crowd.

The power of a critic

If you want your business to stand out, to attract lots of word of mouth referrals, it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from influencing you.

Why?

Because just about everything you need to do in order to market your business successfully, especially online, is visible and wide open to criticism. Anything you do, which is different enough for the marketplace to value it, is also visible enough for critics to criticise it.

So, you either learn to deal with it or do what most small business owners do, and run a business in the shadows, which is not a wise marketing move!

3 Steps to deal with negative criticism

Fortunately, dealing with negative criticism is relatively easy, so long as you learn to accept it for what it is. Once you understand why criticism happens, it eliminates its negative impact and allows you to focus all your effort on putting your best work out there.

Because I publish lots of material to a large audience, I get negative criticism regularly. In fact, the better my work, the more likely it is that at least one person will criticise it or criticise me for writing it.

Here are the 3 steps I used, to totally eliminate the negative impact of criticism.

1. Consider their motivation

When someone feels the need to negatively criticise your work, they are satisfying a need they have. It’s always about them, not you or your work.

Even if someone is negatively criticising you because they hope it will help you improve, it’s to satisfy their desire to help.

So, whatever the intention, criticism is always about the critic!

Understanding this is a key part of disempowering the critic’s influence over you and how you feel. When you accept that it’s NOT about you or your work, you see criticism for what it is – a selfish act perpetrated to feed a need the critic has – positive or negative.

Of course, even if the motivation is negative, if they are an expert in the field, you can still learn from what the critic says. Scientists often negatively criticise the work of their peers, people who really know their subject. That kind of criticism may be negative, but it can bring value with it.

This brings us nicely to the second step.

2. Consider the source

Is the person who is negatively criticising you, qualified to criticise you? Most criticism is unqualified. That’s to say, the person criticising your work doesn’t know enough about the subject or what you’re trying to achieve, to offer anything other than an uninformed opinion.

Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.

3. Use negative criticism as weights in your mental gym

With each piece of criticism that you run through the previous 2 steps, you build your resistance to the negative impact of critics. Just as lifting weights builds your muscles, processing negative criticism builds your emotional defences. Each time you are criticised and see it for what it really is, it becomes easier. Less daunting. Less fearsome.

Pretty soon, you learn to be fascinated by criticism and what it tells you about the other person. You quickly learn that if no one is criticising you, you are either invisible, doing work that fails to stand out… or both.

Finally, don’t try and avoid negative criticism. It will rob you of your voice. No criticism means no impact!

How to stop fear from crushing your business!

Nothing of value in business can be achieved without courage. At least, without more courage than the typical business owner.

Think about it… it takes courage to:

  • Turn away the wrong kind of clients.
  • Develop a new type of product or service.
  • Do things your way.
  • Refuse to do average work.
  • Set deadlines and achieve them.
  • Charge 200% more for your time than the industry average.
  • Embrace opportunities, knowing that with every real opportunity there will be risk involved.
  • Lead.

How to get the balance right

When I work with a new client, we start by removing the fears that have held them back. Next, we create their strategy, which they now have the strength, energy and courage to achieve. It works. Extremely well.

I recommend you do the same. Otherwise, you will end up with a good strategy, which you won’t execute or you will develop a risk free strategy, which can’t possibly work.

What is inspiration? Steve Jobs and Picasso provide some insights

So, what is inspiration and how can you tap into it when you need to become inspired?

what is inspiration, steve jobs

In today’s post, I’m going to share one of the ideas used by Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs, when they were looking for creative inspiration. I’m also going to share a couple of tips of my own, but first, let’s take a brief look at the definition of inspiration.

Inspiration defined

The Oxford Dictionary defines inspiration as: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

Commonly we think of people being randomly struck by a flash of inspiration, so we see inspiration as a feeling that occurs almost by accident. However, as the start of that dictionary definition states, inspiration is a process. We become mentally stimulated (inspired) to do something. The key here, is to learn how to create that inspired state when we need to.

How to feel inspired

There is no single, set way to make every person feel inspired. That’s because we are all different and are inspired by different things. You need to learn what works for you and one of the best ways to do this, is to think about what you were doing the last few times you felt inspired. Consider where you were and what you were doing, etc. Look for any common factors and incorporate these the next time you need some inspirational ideas or answers.

Here are just a tiny number of situations, which trigger creative inspiration:

  • Some people find inspiration in books.
  • Some find inspiration in music.
  • Some people are inspired when surrounded by nature.
  • Some people grab a pad and some colouring pencils and start doodling.
  • Some people become inspired to create, when an internal or external deadline approaches. This one is really interesting, because it shows how creative inspiration can indeed be self driven.
  • Some find inspiration through affirmations or positive self-talk.
  • Some find inspiration comes when they are doing some type of physical activity. For me, it’s walking that works best.
  • Some find inspiration in the design of an everyday item. (More on that in a moment.)
  • And others find all of the above work to a lesser or greater degree.

Inspired on purpose

As well as all being potential sources of inspiration, each of the scenarios above has another thing in common. Can you guess what it is?

They are all under our control!

That is to say, we can decide to take any of the actions above when we want to feel inspired. We don’t need to wait to be struck by inspiration. We can find the things that work best for us, then build a strategy that uses them.

I found that I often got my best ideas when I was walking. So, I incorporated a daily walk into my routine. I always carry an audio recorder with me, then when an idea comes I can record it. I write thousands of words every day, most of which are inspired by ideas captured during my walks. I also find that I get lots of creative ideas when I am in the company of other creative people, (problem solvers.)

“I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9:00 every morning.” Peter De Vries.

That quote from Peter De Vries makes a great point. We can choose to help ourselves become inspired or we can be a servant to inspiration. We can wait for the fictitious muse to arrive or we can take control and direct our own mind.

Inspired by other works: Great artists steal

Many people believe that in order to create, their inspiration needs to come from a wholly unique idea; something no one has ever thought of before. However, when we look at the creators of the most amazing art, inventions and ideas, we find the opposite.

Pablo Picasso famously said: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ This phrase became popular again in 1996, when the late Steve Jobs repeated it in a PBS documentary called Triumph of the Nerds. In that interview, Jobs went on to say: ‘We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.’

What Jobs was talking about, was not ripping off a piece of work and claiming you created it. Far from it. He went on to explain that he and his team would ‘expose ourselves to the best things that humans have done‘, and then try to incorporate them into something unique, of their own.

A well known example of the kind of inspiration that Steve Jobs was talking about, comes from the creator of the underarm, ball deodorant. He was inspired by the way ink flowed from a ballpoint pen and saw how the process could be applied to any liquid with similar properties. As you know, the underarm deodorant went on to become one of the most popular hygiene products in history.

An even better example is the invention of the tablet computer. The idea behind the tablet devices we see today, was inspired by at least 2 existing ideas: The clay tablets used 3,000 years ago and the modern notebook / laptop.

Little, if anything, is truly new. We should understand and embrace this idea, if we want to remove one of the biggest barriers to creative inspiration. We just need to remember that there’s a big difference between stealing ideas to create something new – and copying or ripping off an existing idea. Remember that Picasso quote from earlier: ‘… great artists steal’. They don’t copy!

Creating your inspiration strategy

It starts by deliberately monitoring the things that inspire you the most. Write them down. Then, incorporate them into your work flow, so that you can get into an inspired state when you need to, rather than just when it randomly occurs.

What works for me? I incorporated a walk into my work flow when I discovered that it was how most of my best ideas came to me. I also learned that if I read my email first thing in the morning, it took my focus away from creating. So, my workday starts with a walk, followed by the commitment to write 500 words or solve a problem, before I start on my email.

Just as Peter De Vries made sure to be inspired at 9am each workday, we too need to stop waiting for everything to be perfect and proactively seek inspiration – doing what works for us.

Build a recipe that works for you, then use it every time you need to do some creative work or find a creative answer. Don’t wait for inspiration. Deliberately encourage it.

Then do the work

As well as inspiring ourselves to create, we also need to motivate ourselves to put what we have created into action. It’s one thing to have a great idea sketched out on paper – it’s something else to actually use that idea.

We need to learn to give our ideas the chance to fly. We need to give our answers the chance to make a difference. This means we need to back them up with intelligent activity.

Photo Copyright: Albert Watson

You don’t launch a successful blog. You build it.

Katie found this out 9 months ago, when she invested almost $8000 on the design and launch of her new business blog. The blog is still floundering and Katie emailed me, to ask if I thought she should relaunch it.

Here’s my answer. I also share how to build an extremely successful blog or newsletter, based on what is proven to work.

The razzmatazz is just the starting pistol

I attended a wedding some years ago, which cost a fortune. Just to give you an idea of the scale I’m talking about, they hired Earth Wind and Fire to play for the guests!

Sadly, the marriage lasted less than a year.

Here’s the thing: You don’t launch a successful marriage. You build it. It’s only what happens after the razzmatazz of the big day, which matters. The same is true of a business launch, blog launch or newsletter launch. The launch is irrelevant — it’s what you do, day in and day out, which matters.

[Note: Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Google were built, not launched. Think about that for a moment.]

It’s all about commitment

I started Jim’s Marketing Blog just over 6 years ago. There was no launch. No press release. No razzmatazz. Today, it’s one of the most popular marketing sites in the world.

I’ve learned that the key to developing a commercially successful blog or newsletter, is commitment.

It works like this:

  • You need to commit the time required to regularly write useful posts or articles. I invest an hour or more every day, writing for you and responding to emails. For the first year, I often invested 3 hours a day on the blog. I’d wake up extra early or go to bed extra late, because I was committed to it. Every top blogger I know has done the same.
  • You need to commit to leave the masses and stand out. One reason my blog grew so quickly, is that I marketed it extremely effectively. Most bloggers and newsletter providers use the same strategies as one another. They follow the same general advice that’s regurgitated on popular content marketing blogs and copywriting blogs. This is a BIG mistake! It is impossible to succeed in any meaningful way, using the same approach as millions of others. It makes you invisible.
  • You need to commit to do the work. Period. I have written for you when I’ve been tired and when I’ve been sick. I’ve written for you when I had deadlines to meet and when I was on holiday. When you commit to do the work, you find a way to make it happen. When you’re not committed, you find an excuse.
  • You need to commit to learning. Maybe one of the greatest rewards of writing regularly, is that it forces you to learn. You can’t write every day unless you’re feeding your mind every day.

In short: Instead of investing your time, money and energy on the launch, focus on building something you’re proud of. Make the commitment to do what’s required and see it through. No, it’s not easy — but that’s why so few people do it AND why the rewards are so amazing.

What happened next?

Business is full of contradictions.

Why do accountants, smart people who really understand business, tend to use the least efficient business model, selling their time for money?

Why do designers, supposedly highly creative thinkers, tend to work from similar looking offices, with white paint on the walls and Mac’s on every desk?

Why do marketing consultants, who understand the importance of standing out, offer an almost identical range of services?

What do you think would happen, if…

What do you think would happen, if an accountant developed an innovative business model that clients found attractive? Could it help them stand out in their overcrowded marketplace?

What do you think would happen, if a prospective client visited a designer’s office and found that it looked a lot more original, than the other designers they’d visited? Could it make the designer look a lot more creative than their competitors?

What do you think would happen, if a marketing professional developed a uniquely valuable marketing service, which got people talking? Could it help them build a successful marketing business, which gets referenced in the world’s leading newspapers and media outlets. [Yes, look.]

Most importantly

What do you think would happen, if you found a way to differentiate your business from your competitors?

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